The government’s initiative of a Single National Curriculum (SNC) to define a common base across public and private schools has come under constant criticism from some sections of the society primarily because of its Islamic content. The Islamic content in the SNC is meant for Muslims only and the non-Muslims need not worry. But Muslims having secular views are caught in their hypocrisy. Their criticism of the SNC stems from several factors, foremost being that a secular person, in contrast to a true Muslim, has a very different worldview.
A true Muslim knows that this world is created by Allah SWT as a test and that he will be answerable for each and every action of his in the hereafter. Everything in this world has been created for man to benefit from while remaining obedient to the Creator. The Quran says:
“the One who created death and life, so that He may test you as to which of you is better in his deeds” (67:2)
A secular person by definition is concerned only about this world. Naturally, the two have diverse perspectives on life, its priorities, and its success criteria. This difference is also reflected in the importance they assign to various types of knowledge.
Islam puts great emphasis on acquiring knowledge.
“Say, Can those who know and those who do not know become equal?” (Quran 39:9)
However, Islam recognizes two types of knowledge and considers both important. First is the knowledge revealed through Quran and Sunnah, the other being acquired knowledge i.e., attained through the senses, logic, and experimentation.
Both types of knowledge are important so that a balance is maintained between this life and the hereafter so as to ensure ultimate success. A Muslim is required to acquire worldly knowledge as well as be aware of Allah’s guidance to ensure compliance while benefitting from His creations.
Balancing the worldly and Islamic development
The educational requirements of a country are defined by its faith, belief systems, values, culture, geography, and history. Pakistan is an Islamic country by genesis as also enshrined in its Constitution, with over 95% of the population being Muslims.
It then goes without saying that Pakistan needs an educational system that balances the worldly and Islamic development of its Muslim citizens. That is the whole point of the SNC i.e. to align the curriculum with its population’s needs and with the country’s vision, as envisioned by the Quaid and Allama Iqbal.
Article 31 of the Constitution defines the State’s responsibility towards the Islamic way of life:
(1) Steps shall be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
(2) The state shall endeavor, and respect the Muslims of Pakistan:
(a) to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiyat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of the Arabic language ….
(b) to promote unity and the observance of the Islamic moral standards.
Dictates of the Constitution represent the will of the people.
Criticising Islamic content in SNC
Compulsory teaching of the Holy Quran Act passed by the parliament in 2017 and the Punjab Assembly Act in 2018 to teach Quran, though much delayed (Pakistan came into existence in 1947 & the current Constitution was framed in 1973) are a step towards the state discharging its constitutional responsibility. Despite this strong case for Islamic content, the critics continue to perpetuate propaganda against its addition to the SNC.
SNC critics would also like to do away with the little modesty that remains in our society because, in their view, it has hampered our education, especially in Medicine and Biology. We remind them that Pakistani doctors, both male and female have done very well globally. Islam, in contrast, preaches modesty.
“Faith has 70 branches and modesty is one of them.” (Hadeeth)
It is worthwhile to look closely at the havoc the free society and sex education in schools have caused to family life and the social fabric of Western society. An Islamic country like Pakistan needs to protect its values and safeguard against taking the same disastrous route as the West.
Another criticism is the extra burden that the Islamic content will create. As it is now, parents arrange for a Qari separately for their children to teach Quran in the evening. Children, already tired after a full school day, are reluctant participants. It will become less of a burden on both the parents and the children if Quran is taught in school rather than as a separate activity.
The value of Ahadeeth
There is an addition of a few short Ahadeeth and everyday supplications which are essential for a Muslim to memorize and recite in his daily routine. This should not cause worry as new research reveals that a human brain has so much extra capacity that only a fraction is used in a lifetime and that the more you use it, the sharper it becomes.
Huffaz commonly do better as medical students because their memory becomes sharper as a result of Quran memorization; memorization enhances their ability to remember more!
SNC includes Ahadeeth on values such as honesty, cleanliness, purity of intention, avoiding backbiting, using soft language, good behavior with neighbors, and other such values. The new curriculum also includes strands on “Husn-e-Muamlat-o-Muashrat” and “Islami Taleemat aur Dour-e-Hazir ke Taqazay”. This will inculcate in children a sense of morality in their thinking and their dealings, something that is missing in our current educational system.
Currently, there is moral degradation at all levels in society. At the lower levels, people are uneducated but corruption at the higher levels is done by those ‘educated’ in a worldly sense. They however lack a religious and moral aspect to their education.
Through the revised Islamic Curriculum, we can make the divine message understood better, promote values of truth, honesty, integrity, tolerance, accommodation for others’ points of view. Our next generations can thus develop into better citizens, eventually leading to a more peaceful, harmonious, and successful society.
The author is a retired IT Professional with degrees in Engineering and Business from Pakistan, the USA, and the UK with 34 years of professional experience working in the USA, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in some well-known companies. He is a member of Tanzeem-e-Islami founded by Late Dr. Israr Ahmed. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.